Notes to Myself


My favorite picks from the book Notes to Myself: My Struggle to Become a Person by Hugh Prather are listed below. Just thought they were quite interesting to think about as I read….

My trivia is an invitation to be friends.

The rainbow is more beautiful than the pot at the end of it, because the rainbow is now. And the pot never turns out to be quite what I expected.

Negative feedback is better than none. I would rather have a man hate me than overlook me. As long as he hates me I make a difference.

Both my body and my emotions were given to me and it is as futile for me to condemn myself for feeling scared, insecure, selfish or revengeful as it is for me to get mad at myself for the size of my feet. I am not responsible for my feelings but for what I do with them.

“I need your heart and your eyes and your eyes and your touch and your words. I want you to see me and hear me and feel me and speak to me and love me.” But by giving what I want, I realize that I have what I thought I lacked before.

When I say “you should,” I avoid committing myself. I am referring you to some supposedly objective or decency or what-have-you dictates that you do this, while I pretend to stay out of it.

Boredom is useful to me when I notice it and think: Oh, I’m bored—there must be something else I want to be doing. In this way boredom acts as an initiator of the originality by pushing me into new activities or thoughts.

The more I consult my feelings during the day, tune in to myself to see if what I am doing is what I want to be doing, the less I feel at the end of the day that I have been wasting time.

But if I make you aware of just how I feel, your reaction might give me much blunt information about myself—or at least about us.

I notice sometimes I think, “I ought to do so-and-so,” in order to cover up my desire to do it. If I “have” to do it I don’t have to admit that I want to, or that I don’t want to.

Sometimes the only way for me to find out what it is I want to do is to go ahead and do something. Then the moment I start to act, my feelings become clear.

I am noticing that when I bored I think I am tired of my surroundings but I am really tired of my thoughts. It is trite, repetitious, unobserved thinking that is producing the discontent. Adopting a quiet awareness, a kind of listening attitude, usually freshens my mind and brings the situation I am in to life.

Insecurity can mean lack of self-knowledge: I am not secure with myself—I can’t rely on myself—I don’t know how I operate. I am insecure to the degree that I keep parts of myself hidden from myself.

Why do I judge my day by how much I have “accomplished?”

Dishonest people believe in words rather than reality.

Confession is an avoidance of change. If I confess it, I don’t have to accept the responsibility of changing it: “I confess. It is beyond my control.” And it shifts the burden: “You have heard it, now what are you going to do about it?”

I experience the feelings that make me want to open my mouth and speak, not as questions but as demands. My words spring from emotions and my emotions are declarative, not interrogative. Even my feeling of curiosity is a statement of what I want.

Profanity fixes the other person’s attention on my words rather than my thoughts.

I talk because I feel and I talk to you because I want you to know how I feel.

My arguments insist: I want you to show respect for me by agreeing with me.

One thing has become quite clear: all acquaintances are passing. Therefore I want to make the most of every contact. I want to quickly get close to people I meet because my experience has shown we won’t be together long.

No one is wrong. At most something is misinformed. If I think a man is wrong, either I am unaware of something, or he is. So unless I want to play a superiority game I had best find out what he is looking at.

“You’re wrong” means “I don’t understand you”—I’m not seeing what you’re seeing. But there is nothing wrong with you, you are simply not me and that’s not wrong.

I must do these things in order to communicate: Become aware of you (discover you). Make you aware of me (uncover myself). Be ready for change during our conversation, and be willing to reveal my changes to you.

If I want to communicate with you I must keep you informed of my feelings. It is sometimes my attempt to discover your position before I reveal mine, or it sometimes hides a criticism I don’t want to risk stating. If I ask you, “Why do you say that?” or “Is that what you really think?” I show you a little of what I am feeling. Instead I put you on the defensive without making clear what it is in me I want you to respond to.

I am not interested so much in what I do with my hands or words as what I do with my feelings. I want to live from the inside out, not the inside in.

Most words evolved as a description of the outside world, hence their inadequacy to describe what is going on inside me.

“Don’t feel bad.”
“But I do.”

I feel what I feel.

“I don’t care what people think”—that is the most dishonest sentence the in English language. I say it because I want to believe I don’t care what people think, or I want you to.

I am afraid of your silence because of what it could mean. I suspect your silence of meaning you are getting bored or losing interest or making up your own mind about me without my guidance. I believe that as long as I keep you talking I can know what you are thinking.

But silence can also mean confidence. And mutual respect. Silence can mean live and let live: the appreciation that I am I and you are you. This silence is an affirmation that we are already together—as two people. Words can mean that I want to make you into a friend and silence can mean that I accept you already being one.

Wanting to do something is a desire, not a sentence. What I “decide” what I want to do I translate my desire into a sentence then follow the sentence; I take the desire out of my body and put it in my mind. Asking myself, “What do I want to do?” brings to mind my habitual answers to that question, it brings in irrelevant things I “should” be wanting to do, and it ignores the fact that there may be no adequate words to describe what I am feeling at this moment.

What is the difference between “I want food” and “I want sex?”

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